What a leader will look like in 2025

March 6, 2018

This piece is presented by Cain Ellsworth & Company LLP.

The year 2025 isn’t that far away. And in the next seven years, the only certainty is that the qualities a business leader will need will continue to change.

Matt Heemstra, director of growth and profit solutions at Cain Ellsworth & Company LLP, is an expert in guiding organizations through change as they build leaders’ capabilities to manage it.

He will speak on the topic The Leader 2025 on March 13 at an event for Sioux Falls Business & Professional Women. To learn more, click here.

We talked with Heemstra about how “change is the new normal” and what business leaders need to do to be ready for 2025.

You talk about a “leadership cliff” coming. What are you anticipating?

There’s so much change, not just in business but the world and in society. You can’t look at the world we’re in, whether it’s technology or generational differences or globalization, and see how much change there is in the world and say all that can change but leaders don’t have to. There has to be a shift in what leaders do and their behaviors and capabilities. And I think there’s a widening gap between what we’ve been doing as leaders and what we’ll have to do in the future, whether that’s managing a diverse workforce or accelerating change, any number of things. 

Fast-forward to 2025. Paint us a picture of what a successful leader looks likes.

I think one of the things that will be important for leaders is to be less focused on skills sets in terms of technical knowledge. That’s still important. But we have to be better learners. Sometimes leaders think, “I’m the leader, and I don’t have to learn anything” or “I got to this point, and I must be smart enough.” But if you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re not going to be a lifelong leader. If you’re not constantly learning, you’re not going to continue to be a leader. And it’s not just keeping your employees on task. It’s how do I help employees evolve in their skill sets just like I’m trying to evolve in mine.

How can businesses assess their leaders’ readiness for that changing landscape? Or how does a CEO or owner self-assess?

There’s a couple ways. As leader, you need to make time to sit down and think about what the future looks like. We’re so busy being busy we’re not thinking about what’s going to be really important in a few years. We have a client who’s a consultant in the dairy industry. He works with a lot of dairies that tend to do things in traditional ways. A lot of them are now looking at robotics, and he doesn’t know much about that. He could wait until everybody’s using robotics and he’s obsolete to learn it, or he can learn now to be on the cutting edge. You have to think about what do I need to know or what do we as an organization need to know in the next two to four years and start now. And if you don’t know, get in a group of other leaders, and talk about that. It’s easy to get in a cocoon. It’s OK to get some outside support if you’re having a hard time self-assessing.

What is one thing that business owners “must do” in 2018 to start building their team to prepare for the future?

Do a really clear assessment of how good we are at change. When it comes to technology and continual learning, are you able as a leader to drive change in your organization? How good are we at understanding why we need to change? Do we understand what’s in it for us? Do we have a clear picture of what that change looks like? Do we believe it’s possible? Assessing whether you have change readiness will help you understand if you’re going to be able to change how you make a product or handle people.

Most organizations stink at change. As a leader, you have to be constantly involved. It can’t be lip service. It can’t apply to everybody but you. And we have to have a clear picture of what it means for everyone on the team. How does this impact them personally? Will it make their job faster, safer, easier, better, more fun? What will impact them? You have to be able to answer those questions.

As you work with businesses, where do you find the most demand for your services?

I think that has evolved over the last few years. People used to want to talk strategy. Where they need help now is in learning and development. How do we get our next generation ready for change and ready to lead? We still focus on strategy, but we need to do more and more people development because as baby boomers finally admit they won’t be around forever, they have to have someone ready to take over, and we can help them get there.

People might not think that an accounting firm helps manage change and leadership development. How would you describe what you’re able to do for businesses?

Our goal is to help our clients’ businesses succeed. We’re not in business simply to do planning or audits or taxes. We’re in business to help clients’ businesses do better. So whatever they need and value, we have to provide. And right now, that’s managing change and developing people. It fits our mission of helping businesses succeed, which I think is a different attitude for our industry.

Hear from Matt Heemstra on March 13 when he presents to Sioux Falls Business & Professional Women. To learn more, click here. Find more insight from Matt by following his blog or reading his book.

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What a leader will look like in 2025

The year 2025 isn’t that far away. And in the next seven years, the only certainty is that the qualities a business leader will need will continue to change.

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